I’ll freely confess that at times in my life, I am a bandwagon jumper. But at other times, I find the over the top popularity of something to turn me off to it. That was the case with me and Jars of Clay. I just couldn’t see what the big deal was with this band. So I’m still a little unsure why I actually bought Furthermore: From the Studio, From the Stage. But it actually made me change my mind on the band.
Released after their fourth studio project, this two disc set was a bit of a best of project, but instead of rereleasing the same recordings, Jars of Clay went back and recorded the songs again. Disc One – From the Studio – features new acoustic versions of seven familiar songs as well as three new tracks. Disc Two – From the Stage features eleven songs taken from a live concert. Apparently, they are really just the soundtrack from a live concert recording, but I never saw that recording.
Even though I have bought all of Jars’ discs in the almost decade since this came out, I’m still not a big enough fan to be able to tell you right off where these songs originated. But I do enjoy them when they pop up on my various playlists.
The acoustic disc starts off with “Overjoyed,” which is toned down just a tad and feels quieter. That’s even more obvious with “Something Beautiful.” Yet both songs still have enough rock to them to feel like Jars songs. Then again, lead vocalist Dan Haseltine has something to do with that. His vocals are pretty distinctive.
Probably the most interesting song on this disc is “Liquid.” They’ve really slowed this song down. It’s not bad, but it is very jarring if you are used to the original version. (Yes, pun intended). On the other hand, “The Eleventh Hour” doesn’t feel that different at all. This disc also includes “Needful Hands,” which they had originally recorded for group disc Exodus. It’s a slower, more reverent version of a song that was always intended as a worship song with a heavy presence from the acoustic guitar.
All three of the original tracks on this disc also fit the acoustic feel of their neighbors. “The Valley Song” is guitar heavy as they sing a song of praise during the trials of life. But the acoustic guitar really shines on “Dig.” That’s almost all you hear on this song, which really takes a melancholy tone. They follow it with the slightly more upbeat “Redemption.” Again, the acoustic guitar is the focus, although this one gets some other instruments to help it out.
The songs on disc two feel much more like their normal selves. They may be live, but there is more electric guitar and a heavier use of drums. In fact, a few times I think it would hard for some to tell is it is the original recording or not. There is almost no talking at all here, just the song and some cheering between tracks. Although you can tell when they hit definite fan favorites (“Like a Child,” “I Need You,” and “Flood”) because the crowd erupts as soon as the song starts.
The emphasis here is certainly on songs from The Eleventh Hour, which makes since from a concert point of view since that was their most recent release. Still, it seems like they could have mixed it up a bit more for this disc and used some older recordings or threw a few more classics into a set list to spice this disc up a bit more. This is especially true when it comes to “The Eleventh Hour” itself. Don’t get me wrong, I like the song, but do we really need an acoustic version on disc one and then a live version here?
Still, I’m not going to complain about what is here because I like many of these songs. “Like a Child” is a good challenge about faith, while “I Need You” is surprisingly fun song on surrender. (Yes, I love the popular songs, too these days.)
They do mix things up some like the slower version of “Crazy Times” that takes a bit of time to get going. But once it does, it’s very good. Also slower is “This Road,” a song to encourage the persecuted church. This one could almost fit on the first disc with the emphasis on acoustic guitar and the accordion used here.
Then there’s “I’m Alright” and “Revolution.” I’ve never really come to appreciate this duo because they are just a bit too funky. That’s mainly at the beginning and ending, so I should probably give them more credit than I do, but the intros and outros (and how they blend the songs together) just don’t work for me.
The set closes with two classics. You know they had to include “Flood” somewhere since that is the song they will always be known best for. It sounds great here with the unmistakable electric guitar strum. Finally, there’s “Worlds Apart,” which starts with a very long acoustic intro and takes up almost eleven minutes from start to finish.
I must admit I have the original versions of most of these songs in my iTunes these days and so I don’t listen to the set that much, but when I pulled it out I realized just how solid it is. I couldn’t stop listening to it when I first got it.
So if you are looking for an introduction to Jars of Clay’s early music, Furthermore: From the Studio, From the Stage is a great way to do it. No, the songs aren’t quite the versions you would know from the radio, but they are still fun no matter how they’ve been recorded.
Disc One – From the Studio
CD Length: 37:49
2. Something Beautiful
3. The Valley Song
5. The Eleventh Hour
8. Love Song for a Savior
10. Needful Hands
Disc Two – From the Stage
CD Length: 53:16
2. Like a Child
3. Crazy Times
4. I Need You
5. The Eleventh Hour
6. This Road
8. I’m Alright
11. Worlds Apart
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